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Botox Can Affect Your Emotions

It has long been suggested that feedback signals from facial muscles influence emotional experience. The recent surge in use of botulinum toxin (BTX) to induce temporary muscle paralysis offers a unique opportunity to directly test this “facial feedback hypothesis.” Previous research shows that the lack of facial muscle feedback due to BTX-induced paralysis influences subjective reports of emotional experience, as well as brain activity associated with the imitation of emotional facial expressions. However, it remains to be seen whether facial muscle paralysis affects brain activity, especially the amygdala, which is known to be responsive to the perception of emotion in others. Further, it is unknown whether these neural changes are permanent or whether they revert to their original state after the effects of BTX have subsided. The present study sought to address these questions by using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure neural responses to angry and happy facial expressions in the presence or absence of facial paralysis.


Consistent with previous research, amygdala activity was greater in response to angry compared to happy faces before BTX treatment. As predicted, amygdala activity in response to angry faces was attenuated when the corrugator/procerus muscles were paralyzed via BTX injection but then returned to its original state after the effects of BTX subsided. This preliminary study comprises a small sample size and no placebo condition; however, the A-B-A design affords the present sample to serve as its own control.


Temporary paralysis of facial muscles using BTX essentially cuts off all afferent feedback signals from the injection site while leaving the efferent signals untouched

“Botulinum toxin-induced facial muscle paralysis affects amygdala responses to the perception of emotional expressions: preliminary findings from an A-B-A design”

  • M Justin Kim,
  • Maital Neta,
  • F Caroline Davis,
  • Erika J Ruberry,
  • Diana Dinescu,
  • Todd F Heatherton,
  • Mitchell A Stotland and
  • Paul J Whalen
Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders 2014 4:11

DOI: 10.1186/2045-5380-4-11

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